Our alma mater; an evening in the “D;” and as cold as an Ohio State game in The Big House.
We arrived at The Inn on Ferry Street with not enough time for a visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts, a mere block away, as the museum closed at 1600 on weekdays. In fact, all of the area museums of interest closed at 1600. The problem, though, was that we had arrived with too much time to do anything else. It was too late in the day to take a refreshing nap; and it was too early to call it a night. Plus, the still chilly air of early spring? late, late winter? wafting in through the open windows was not compelling us to leave The Inn.
So, in our spacious and lusciously decorated room I set about hanging our dress clothes for the graduation dinner to de-wrinkle, only to realize that I had not packed Tony’s jacket! I always pack or otherwise select Tony’s dress clothes to coordinate with mine, and at that moment remembered having been distracted by an Eastern Green Woodpecker hitting our terrace door. The big bird turned out to be just fine, but I lost focus with concern for my feathered friend’s well-being. While I fretted, Tony, meanwhile, busied himself with setting up our mobile Internet.
Soon we were within the respectable zone of an early dinner, but the collective desire to make ourselves restaurant-presentable had gone south of “Zero” some time ago. Thank goodness The Inn had a special relationship with a local tavern, and within the hour two amazing Reuben sandwiches and two Stroh’s Bohemian Style Pilsners (a Detroit brew) arrived at the front desk. Old-school sandwiches, with the corned beef piled in the center of crispy grilled Rye slices, with just enough Thousand Island to drip, but not dribble. A splendid start to the upcoming epicurean adventures. Lights were out early in anticipation of reminiscing on Michigan’s campus the following day.
But first, after breakfast we pointed the rental car toward Hamtramck, the city where Polish immigrants (my grandparents) settled; where my parents were born; and where I spent a good portion of my childhood. Of course the neighborhood has changed; and I amazed myself with how many places I could recall from memory. Now the community is a vibrant mix of many cultures, with, yes, some rough edges, and I hope it continues to thrive and serve this new generation of immigrants.
The Hamtramck I knew. Kowalski Sausage Company, begun by Agnes and Zyg Kowalski, who emigrated from Poland with dreams of a better life. They resemble all of my aunts and uncles.
Hopping out of the car for this snap, the aromas of smoked sausages in the air made me smile.
Srodek’s. Of course everything is Home Made. There is no other way.
How the times have changed. QofA’s masses were always, and only, in Polish.
On to Ann Arbor. We and numerous other parents all wandered about the campus with the same expressions on this day: “Oh, I remember that!” and “Didn’t that used to be…?” A dive by the most generous of standards back in our campus days, The Brown Jug was the first snack stop for a basket of Poppers and Pickles, and a couple of beers (Don’t judge. These Jalapeño bites of goodness are not so common in Vienna.)
The menu had changed just a little bit in the intervening decades: there were now more than 74 varieties of “Shooters,” offered, including the surprising-for-such-a-Woke-campus, “Piece of Ass Shooter;” and the “Sex in the Mouth Shooter,” among others. Alrighty.
Because we were having too much fun reminiscing about where it all began, at the coffee shop in the background…
…we skipped lunch and had to scurry to Zingerman’s, now an icon of culinary virtue-signalling (For cripe’s sake, the deli sells jars of “Fennel Pollen” for $24,99 yet offers “a place at the table” for everyone?) to collect the catered order for graduation lunch in Jack’s apartment the following day.
Back in Detroit for dinner, Tony and I hopped on the new Q-Line, a streetcar connecting the Detroit mid-town with the downtown, and then the Detroit People Mover to take us to dinner in Greektown. Restaurant Pegasus was our choice, a lively and crowded venue that made for a fun evening. Several lamb dishes were on the featured menu, and so we ordered two delicious preparations along with a carafe of house wine, settling in for the evening without any hurrying-along by the waitstaff. A Robotics World Competition was also happening in Detroit on this weekend, with some 35.000 participants all needing a place for dinner, many of whom filled the tables and the restaurant with their laughter. The neighborhood was alive, and we remarked on how very different it was from the Detroit of our undergrad days.
“Spring” Commencement the following day was a leap of faith. Grey skies. 1°C. And, I’m sure a snowflake or two grazed my nose. In parkas and jeans rather than spring dresses and khakis, we parents boarded the campus buses (inside story for those who know…) to The Big House. We cheered. We froze. We celebrated our graduates.
Of course the Zingerman’s lunch feast was spectacular. I had coordinated with the moms of Jack’s three apartment-mates, and just as quickly as we could bring our frozen selves back from The Big House the bounty was spread for all to enjoy. We feasted! And we toasted our graduates: may they all Forever, Go Blue!
Who wouldn’t be enamored with their decorating style, Christmas lights and empty beer bottles? But at least they had had the good sense to clean the WC for the Moms.
The Graduation Dinner. I love food, and on this trip there were several meals I had been anticipating. In Michigan, Zingerman’s, and graduation dinner at The Rattlesnake Club. The Rattlesnake Club is a gracious upscale restaurant in downtown Detroit. In fine weather no doubt the terrace seating along the river enhances the dining experience; it being a balmy 4°C on this day, though, our party was seated inside at a cozy table. Within moments of sitting, alas, my I-have-been-living-in-Europe-perhaps-too-long hackles were raised: the wait staff hovered; they rushed us through the Champagne toast (to the graduates) to take our orders; and otherwise punctuated our laughter and conversation with, “Is everything okay?” Between dinner and dessert, a wait staffer even fussed at us when we were standing about taking photos.
But about the food. Our table shared a Michigan cheese plate (quite good!); a fresh asparagus plate (quite exceptional!); and a baby kale salad (ordinary in the face of the asparagus and the cheese plate) to begin. I ordered the Great Lakes Perch, a throwback to my childhood summer weekends at the cottage, when my father and grandfather would return from an early morning fishing trip with “breakfast” (the smaller Perch my grandmother would fry). The wine that was selected, a northern Italian chosen over an Austrian, was quaffable but not inspiring. Overall, though, a most pleasant conclusion to the Michigan half of our holiday.
Jack and Lovely Fran.